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1. Chapter 11: Pricing with Market Power CHAPTER 11 PRICING WITH MARKET POWER REVIEW QUESTIONS 1. Suppose a firm can practice perfect, first-degree price discrimination. What is the lowest price it will charge, and what will its total output be? When the firm is able to practice perfect first-degree price discrimination, each unit is sold at the reservation price of each consumer, assuming each consumer purchases one unit. Because each unit is sold at the consumer’s reservation price, marginal revenue is simply the price of the last unit. We know that firms maximize profits by producing an output such that marginal revenue is equal to marginal cost. For the perfect price discriminator, that point is where the marginal cost curve intersects the demand curve. Increasing output beyond that point would imply that MR < MC, and the firm would lose money on each unit sold. For lower quantities, MR > MC, and the firm should increase its output. 2. How does a car salesperson practice price discrimination? How does the ability to discriminate correctly affect his or her earnings? The relevant range of the demand curve facing the car salesperson is bounded above by the manufacturer’s suggested retail price plus the dealer’s markup and bounded below by the dealer’s price plus administrative and inventory overhead. By sizing up the customer, the salesperson determines the customer’s reservation price. Through a process of bargaining, a sales price is determined. If the salesperson has misjudged the reservation price of the customer, either the sale is lost because the customer’s reservation price is lower than the salesperson’s guess or profit is 160
2. Chapter 11: Pricing with Market Power lost because the customer’s reservation price is higher than the salesperson’s guess. Thus, the salesperson’s commission is positively correlated to his or her ability to determine the reservation price of each customer. 3. Electric utilities often practice second-degree price discrimination. Why might this improve consumer welfare? Consumer surplus is higher under block pricing than under monopoly pricing because more output is produced. For example, assume there are two prices P1 and P2, with P1 greater than P2. Customers with reservation prices above P1 pay P1, capturing surplus equal to the area bounded by the demand curve and P1. This also would occur with monopoly pricing. Under block pricing, customers with reservation prices between P1 and P2 capture surplus equal to the area bounded by the demand curve, the difference between P1 and P2, and the difference between Q1 and Q2. This quantity is greater than the surplus captured under monopoly, hence block pricing, under these assumptions, improves consumer welfare. P r ice Con su m er Su rplus P1 P2 D Q1 Q2 Qu a n t it y Figure 11.3 161
3. Chapter 11: Pricing with Market Power 4. Give some examples of third-degree price discrimination. Can third-degree price discrimination be effective if the different groups of consumers have different levels of demand but the same price elasticities? To engage in third-degree price discrimination, the producer must separate customers into distinct markets (sorting) and prevent the reselling of the product from customers in one market to customers in another market (arbitrage). While examples in this chapter stress the techniques for separating customers, there are also techniques for preventing resale. For example, airlines restrict the use of their tickets by printing the name of the passenger on the ticket. Other examples include dividing markets by age and gender, e.g., charging different prices for movie tickets to different age groups. If customers in the separate markets have the same price elasticities, then from equation 11.2 we know that the prices are the same in all markets. While the producer can effectively separate the markets, there is little profit incentive to do so. 5. Show why optimal, third-degree price discrimination requires that marginal revenue for each group of consumers equals marginal cost. Use this condition to explain how a firm should change its prices and total output if the demand curve for one group of consumers shifted outward, so that marginal revenue for that group increased. We know that firms maximize profits by choosing output so marginal revenue is equal to marginal cost. If MR for one market is greater than MC, then the firm should increase sales to maximize profit, thus lowering the price on the last unit and raising the cost of producing the last unit. Similarly, if MR for one market is less than MC, the firm should decrease sales to maximize profit, thereby raising the price on the last unit and lowering the cost of producing the last unit. By equating MR and MC in each market, marginal revenue is equal in all markets. If the quantity demanded increased, the marginal revenue at each price would also increase. If MR = MC before the demand shift, MR would be greater than MC 162
4. Chapter 11: Pricing with Market Power after the demand shift. To lower MR and raise MC, the producer should increase sales to this market by lowering price, thus increasing output. This increase in output would increase MC of the last unit sold. To maximize profit, the producer must increase the MR on units sold in other markets, i.e., increase price in these other markets. The firm shifts sales to the market experiencing the increase in demand and away from other markets. 6. When pricing automobiles, American car companies typically charge a much higher percentage markup over cost for “luxury option” items (such as leather trim, etc.) than for the car itself or for more “basic” options such as power steering and automatic transmission. Explain why. This can be explained as an instance of third-degree price discrimination. In order to use the model of third-degree price discrimination presented in the text, we need to assume that the costs of producing car options is a function of the total number of options produced and the production of each type of options affects costs in the same way. For simplicity, we can assume that there are two types of option packages, “luxury” and “basic,” and that these two types of packages are purchased by two different types of consumers. In this case, the relationship across product types MR1 = MR2 must hold, which implies that: P1 /P2 = (1+1/E2) / (1+1/E1) where 1 and 2 denote the luxury and basic products types. This means that the higher price is charged for the package with the lower elasticity of demand. Thus the pricing of automobiles can be explained if the “luxury” options are purchased by consumers with low elasticities of demand relative to consumers of more “basic” packages. 163
5. Chapter 11: Pricing with Market Power 7. How is peak-load pricing a form of price discrimination? Can it make consumers better off? Give an example. Price discrimination involves separating customers into distinct markets. There are several ways of segmenting markets: by customer characteristics, by geography, and by time. In peak-load pricing, sellers charge different prices to customers at different times. When there is a higher quantity demanded at each price, a higher price is charged. Peak-load pricing can increase total consumer surplus by charging a lower price to customers with elasticities greater than the average elasticity of the market as a whole. Most telephone companies charge a different price during normal business hours, evening hours, and night and weekend hours. Callers with more elastic demand wait until the period when the charge is closest to their reservation price. 8. How can a firm determine an optimal two-part tariff if it has two customers with different demand curves? (Assume that it knows the demand curves.) If all customers had the same demand curve, the firm would set a price equal to marginal cost and a fee equal to consumer surplus. When consumers have different demand curves and, therefore, different levels of consumer surplus, the firm is faced with the following problem. If it sets the user fee equal to the larger consumer surplus, the firm will earn profits only from the consumers with the larger consumer surplus because the second group of consumers will not purchase any of the good. On the other hand, if the firm sets the fee equal to the smaller consumer surplus, the firm will earn revenues from both types of consumers. 9. Why is the pricing of a Gillette safety razor a form of a two-part tariff? Must Gillette be a monopoly producer of its blades as well as its razors? Suppose you were advising Gillette on how to determine the two parts of the tariff. What procedure would you suggest? 164
6. Chapter 11: Pricing with Market Power By selling the razor and the blades separately, the pricing of a Gillette safety razor can be thought of as a two-part tariff, where the entry fee is the cost of the razor and the usage fee is the cost of the blades. Gillette does not need to be a monopoly producer of its blades. In the simplest case where all consumers have identical demand curves, Gillette should set the blade price to marginal cost, and the razor cost to total consumer surplus for each consumer. Since blade price is set to marginal cost it does not matter if Gillette has a monopoly or not. The determination of the two parts of the tariff becomes more complicated the greater the variety of consumers with different demands, and there is no simple formula to calculate the optimal two part tariff. The key point to consider is that as the entry fee becomes smaller, the number of entrants will rise, and the profit from the entry fee will fall. Arriving at the optimal two part tariff might involve some amount of iteration over different entry and usage fees. 10. In the town of Woodland, California there are many dentists but only one eye doctor. Are senior citizens more likely to be offered discount prices for dental exams or for eye exams? Why. The dental market is competitive, whereas the eye doctor is a local monopolist. Only firms with market power can practice price discrimination, which implies senior citizens are more likely to be offered discount prices from the eye doctor. Each dentist is already charging a price equal to marginal cost so they are not able to offer a discount. 11. Why did MGM bundle Gone with the Wind and Getting Gertie’s Garter? What characteristic of demands is needed for bundling to increase profits? Loews bundled its film Gone with the Wind and Getting Gertie’s Garter to maximize revenues. Because Loews could not price discriminate by charging a different price to each customer according to the customer’s price elasticity, it chose to bundle the two films and charge theaters for showing both films. The price 165
7. Chapter 11: Pricing with Market Power would have been the combined reservation prices of the last theater that Loews wanted to attract. Of course, this tactic would only maximize revenues if demands for the two films were negatively correlated, as discussed in the chapter. 12. How does mixed bundling differ from pure bundling? Under what conditions is mixed bundling preferable to pure bundling? Why do many restaurants practice mixed bundling (by offering complete dinners as well as an à la carte menu) instead of pure bundling? Pure bundling involves selling products only as a package. Mixed bundling allows the consumer to purchase the products either separately or together. Mixed bundling yields higher profits than pure bundling when demands for the individual products do not have a strong negative correlation, marginal costs are high, or both. Restaurants can maximize profits with mixed bundling by offering both à la carte and full dinners by charging higher prices for individual items to capture the consumers’ willingness to pay and lower prices for full dinners to induce customers with lower reservation prices to purchase more dinners. 13. How does tying differ from bundling? Why might a firm want to practice tying? Tying involves the sale of two or more goods or services that must be used as complements. Bundling can involve complements or substitutes. Tying allows the firm to monitor customer demand and more effectively determine profit- maximizing prices for the tied products. For example, a microcomputer firm might sell its computer, the tying product, with minimum memory and a unique architecture, then sell extra memory, the tied product, above marginal cost. 14. Why is it incorrect to advertise up to the point that the last dollar of advertising expenditures generates another dollar of sales? What is the correct rule for the marginal advertising dollar? 166